I believe everyone has faith in someone or something. For example, many of us have one or more of those “Dummies” books. I have one I bought when I got my current computer – “Windows XP for Dummies“. I have faith in this book. Why? Not because it gives me all the facts about how the computer works. It might be interesting to know all that, but not to me. I just want it to tell me all I have to do to assure that my hope that the computer will do what I want it to do, will be fulfilled. My experience has been that if I do what the book says I should do, my hopes have always been fulfilled. My experience is all the evidence I need to have faith in the “Dummies” book.
In the same way my experience is all the evidence I need to have faith in God, and specifically the God I know as Father, Son (Jesus), and Holy Spirit. This week I am especially aware of this. On the calendar of most branches of the Christian faith, this week (April 1- 8) is Holy Week, which begins with Palm Sunday (also known as Passion Sunday), includes Holy Thursday and Good Friday, and ends with Easter Sunday. It is the week during which Christians remember and celebrate Jesus’ entrance into Jerusalem, the Last Supper, His execution on the Roman cross, and His resurrection, celebrated on Easter Sunday.
The four Biblical gospels all tell the story of what happened that week, and especially what happened on the day we celebrate as Easter Sunday. Some of the details in the story, as told by the four writers, are not in total agreement. For example, they don’t agree on just how many and who exactly were the people who first discovered the empty tomb. Some people say that since we have these differences in details in the Holy Week story, we can’t rely on them as telling the truth. Therefore, they say that you can’t believe with any certainty that Jesus was in fact raised from the dead and alive now. They say there is no evidence of the resurrection of Jesus, since no one actually saw Him leave the tomb. That’s true. There is no evidence, not even in the Bible, of anyone seeing Jesus leave the tomb. But there is reliable evidence, in various forms, of Jesus being alive after he was without a doubt put to death, beyond a reasonable doubt.
The purpose of this blog is not to peresent all the evidence of the risen Jesus. You can read many books or take seminary courses about all of that. Instead, I’m just going to tell you why I(Ray) believe that Jesus was raised from the dead, ascended into heaven, and lives there today and, through His Holy Spirit, lives in this world, right now. I’m just going to present my personal evidence for this. Evidence which no one can dispute. Evidence which was and is good enough to develop and maintain my faith, and therefore my hope, that I can live now in the kingdom of God on earth as it is in heaven.
Like some of you, I grew up in church singing “Jesus Loves Me” and saying “I believe Jesus lives” because I was told that was the right thing to do. Actually, it was the right thing to do. But it took many years until I came to believe, not because of what somebody told me to believe, but because I myself knew from experience that the resurrection of Jesus was the truth. Today I believe for a number of reasons. I have read and heard all kinds of explanations as to why I should believe. Some of them still make sense to me. Some don’t. But the most important reason that I came to and continue to believe is that I have had and continue to experience the presence of and have encounters with Jesus. Here are a few examples.
In my early twenties, I became a church dropout. I spent Sunday mornings in bed. However, on one of those Sunday mornings, when I was 25 years old, I had an encounter with Jesus. I didn’t actually hear spoken words, and I certainly didn’t see anyone, but I clearly sensed the presence of God, in the form of what I later understood to be the Holy Spirit of Jesus. He clearly told me that next Sunday I needed to get out of bed and to church. Not because it would make Him happy, but because it would be good for me. So I did what He told me to do. And He was right. Very soon I realized that church was good for me.
When I was 44 years old, unemployed for a year, and believing that I was a total failure and would never again be worth anything to anyone, I had another encounter with the Holy Spirit of Jesus. This time Jesus gave me the courage not to give up, but to pick myself up and start all over again, using the grace of God. He told me I could do that. Soon thereafter I found a minimum wage job. A few months later I had enough confidence to start and maintain my own business. A few years after that I started and eventually completed the process of becoming a United Methodist pastor. I believed Jesus when He said I could do all that, one step at a time, in His time and His way.
When I was 57 years old I reluctantly attended a spiritual renewal weekend conducted by the Walk to Emmaus. As a pastor, I didn’t think I needed to be going to another retreat. I had better things to do with my time. But I went anyway. It’s a good thing I went. Because I had another encounter with Jesus. This time I discovered that Jesus really loved me. “Jesus loves me” was no longer a nice little Sunday school song that was supposed to make kids feel good. This time I knew without a doubt that Jesus loved me not just as an insignificant part of the universe, but Jesus loved me as an individual.. Now I knew that what I had heard from other people in the church, what I had read in the Bible, what I had even preached, was the truth. Now I had an experience with Jesus in such a way that I knew without a doubt that all I had heard and read about the resurrection of Jesus and His continuing presence and love was the truth.
I believe today, at age 72, because I have ample evidence of the truth of the resurrection and continuing presence and love of Jesus in my own life. And that evidence continues to accumulate. Some of you who are reading this also have had encounters with Jesus in some form. You also know the truth. As the song says “Because He Lives, I Can Face Tomorrow”. My you continue to have encounters with Jesus
Some of you want to have that hope. The hope that no matter how bad things are in the world or in your life, you can experience the kingdom of God on earth as it is in heaven – here and now. I assure you that such hope can be fulfilled. All you have to do is open your heart and mind to receive the love that He wants to give you. As long as your hopes are in accordance with the hopes He has for you, you can expect them to be fulfilled
When Patty and I (Ray) started this web-site we said that while we are Christians, our purpose was not to convert anyone to our or any faith. We still say and mean that. Our purpose is to offer hope where there seems to be no hope, love where there seems to be no love, good news where there is so much bad news, to all persons who God somehow inspires to log onto this web-site, “Ray-of-Hope Ministries“. Our experience, over the years, has been that the source of that hope is God who we know as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
Grace and peace, Ray
Thanks for your attention. We look forward to hearing your comments about our web-site. We also invite you to send us stories of your experiences and observations of present hopes and hope fulfilled, so we can spread them around the world via this web-site. This is one way we can all join together to help keep hope alive.
May God be with you,
Patty and Ray